Yesterday, my Twitter buddy Steven Amiri tweeted the following: “Wet Hot American Summer is on Netflix Instant. Do yourself a favor, log off here & watch it. If you don’t like it, log back on & unfollow me.” I feel the same way—though I’d probably never say it in those words, because I’m afraid of losing followers and I’m not too big on ampersands. But Wet Hot American Summer is essential viewing. I can’t imagine anyone would like me and not like that movie. (Note that I’m not presumptuous enough to think that everyone who likes the movie would necessarily like me.) This got me thinking about other comedies I’ve inflicted on friends in an effort to decide whether or not they were worth keeping around. Does that sound terrible? At least I’m judging people for their comedic tastes and not their looks. (Most of my friends are super cute, anyway.)
Lately, the movie I’m most likely to force on you is Hamlet 2. It’s one of the best and most underappreciated comedies of the last decade, and if you can’t handle the songs “Raped in the Face” or “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus,” we’re probably not going to get along. Hamlet 2 works especially well if you’re a fan of musicals, though I’ll admit that I occasionally take on friends who aren’t theater-oriented. On the other hand, Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, Elisabeth Shue, Amy Poehler—these are people you must know and appreciate. (I’m also fond of David Arquette, but it’s fine if you don’t feel the same way. Hater.) Along with Wet Hot American Summer, Hamlet 2 is probably the comedy I’ve watched most often, but if we watch it together, I promise not to say any of the lines out loud. I totally hate when other people do that.
Obviously Annie Hall is a classic, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t cite Woody Allen as a major influence. (Duh, right?) I prefer that my friends appreciate all Woody Allen films—OK, maybe not Curse of the Jade Scorpion—but Annie Hall is the one you kind of have to love. I think it’s his most approachable and it’s full of the Jewish humor I was raised on. Allen is probably the reason I still identity as a Jew, strange as that may sound: I haven’t been to temple in years, but I feel such a strong kinship to Allen (and Philip Roth, natch) that I can’t not be Jewish. My other favorite Allen comedies are Deconstructing Harry and Mighty Aphrodite, so bonus points if you enjoy both or either. Sometimes Deconstructing Harry actually displaces Annie Hall as my favorite, even though the latter is probably a better film.
And then there are the outrageously bad movies I show people: Valley of the Dolls, Wild Things, Starship Troopers. These are my favorites. These are my—I shit you not—first date movies. The ability to appreciate the camp factor and sincerity of a trashy flick is such an important trait. I like people who don’t take themselves too seriously: sure, you can dig Kubrick and Kurosawa, but if you don’t also occasionally dip into the Denise Richards oeuvre, you’re missing out on something special. Of the three above, Valley of the Dolls is the best—in my mind, it is the greatest bad movie of all time. Believe it or not, I have shown it to people who didn’t laugh once, not even at Neely O’Hara’s cathartic alley breakdown, and no, I didn’t kick them to the curb. But it makes me a little sad. Realistically, we’re never going to watch Showgirls together.
Honestly, you could hate all these movies and we could still be friends. I’m a lot nicer than I pretend to be on the internet. But taste in comedy is a good gauge of a person’s character. You wouldn’t hang out with someone whose favorite comedy was Grown Ups, would you? I mean, that’s just silly.